The Cavaliers have feasted on an easy schedule as of late, having won three of their last four games with the only loss coming to the Nets in a 3OT thriller. The wins have come against the dregs of the league in Memphis, New York and Phoenix, but the Cavaliers can’t afford to be too picky about an optimistic stretch.
Things get harder against the Blazers on Monday night.
Who: Portland Trail Blazers (36-23) at Cleveland Cavaliers (14-46)
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Quicken Loans Arena — Cleveland, Ohio
TV: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Cavaliers status updates: John Henson (Wrist - OUT), Tristan Thompson (Foot - OUT), J.R. Smith (Not with team)
Blazers status update: TBD
The Cavaliers are actually fun to watch right now. With Kevin Love back in the lineup, the rest of the team just feels better. A big part of the Cavaliers struggles all year have been players being forced to play several tiers of responsibility better than the talent on the roster.
Players like Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman should really be secondary or even tertiary members of an even decent offense. Being thrust into games with the scenario of “If they don’t play well, the Cavaliers won’t just lose, they’ll get wrecked” is not particularly fair to guys at that stage of their careers.
Love might not be a primary option on a great team anymore, but he’s worlds better from a talent and polished perspective as compared to the rest of the team. He’s made the Cavs more watchable.
The Blazers, for their end, will provide a ton of challenges for the Cavaliers. The Cavs are among the worst teams in the league as perimeter defenders, and the Blazers two-headed duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum should have plenty of room to eat. Jusuf Nurkic also should have his way bullying the Cavaliers bigs with a mix of brute force and surprising skill (when he’s in the right mindset).
Rodney Hood and Enes Kanter lead a changed up bench unit that still could probably use a little bit more punch and pedigree, but it’s certainly not the toughest challenge for Portland. As we approach the stretch run of the season, Portland has a tenuous grasp of the No. 4 seed, and home court will be an important advantage for them.
All this to say — they’re going to be playing to win, and the Cavaliers feel-good times may be ending tonight.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction:
The Blazers should win this game. The Cavs are having fun, but they’re still way outgunned. Portland wins this one 121-106.